Sterling Holloway

Active - 1927 - 1977  |   Born - Jan 14, 1905   |   Died - Nov 22, 1992   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Romance, Children's/Family, Musical

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Famed for his country-bumpkin features and fruity vocal intonations, American actor Sterling Holloway left his native Georgia as a teenager to study acting in New York City. Working through the Theatre Guild, the young Holloway was cast in the first Broadway production of songwriters Rodgers and Hart, Garrick Gaieties. In the 1925 edition of the revue, Holloway introduced the Rodgers-Hart standard "I'll Take Manhattan;" in the 1926 version, the actor introduced another hit, "Mountain Greenery." Hollywood beckoned, and Holloway made a group of silent two-reelers and one feature, the Wallace Beery vehicle Casey at the Bat (1927), before he was fired by the higher-ups because they deemed his face "too grotesque" for movies. Small wonder that Holloway would insist in later years that he was never satisfied with any of the work Hollywood would throw his way, and longed for the satisfaction of stage work. When talkies came, Holloway's distinctive voice made him much in demand, and from 1932 through the late '40s he became the archetypal soda jerk, messenger boy, and backwoods rube. His most rewarding assignments came from Walt Disney Studios, where Holloway provided delightful voiceovers for such cartoon productions as Dumbo (1941), Bambi (1942), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Ben and Me (1954) and The Jungle Book (1967). Holloway's most enduring role at Disney was as the wistful voice of Winnie the Pooh in a group of mid-'60s animated shorts. On the "live" front, Holloway became fed up of movie work one day when he found his character being referred to as "boy" - and he was past forty at the time. A few satisfactory film moments were enjoyed by Holloway as he grew older; he starred in an above-average series of two reel comedies for Columbia Pictures from 1946 to 1948 (in one of these, 1948's Flat Feat, he convincingly and hilariously impersonated a gangster), and in 1956 he had what was probably the most bizarre assignment of his career when he played a "groovy" hipster in the low-budget musical Shake, Rattle and Rock (1956). Holloway worked prodigiously in TV during the '50s and '60s as a regular or semi-regular on such series as The Life of Riley, Adventures of Superman and The Baileys of Balboa. Edging into retirement in the '70s, Sterling Holloway preferred to stay in his lavish hilltop house in San Laguna, California, where he maintained one of the most impressive and expensive collections of modern paintings in the world.

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